Edge graduates reflect on their career journeys and discuss their ambitions for the future

Our innovative Edge training programmes provide vets and vet nurses with the skills and experience they need to take on a role in one of our nationwide network of emergency clinics.

Since graduating from their Edge programmes, Emma Middleton, Madeleine Smith, Louise Littler and Sophie Day have gone from strength to strength in their roles at our Coventry, Hull, Warrington and Salisbury clinics, respectively.

We caught up with Emma (EM), Madeleine (MS), Louise (LL) and Sophie (SD) recently to find out how the Edge programme helped prepare them for life on the front line of emergency and critical care, and how Vets Now has supported them to achieve their potential.

Image of vets working in one of Vets Now's emergency hospitals

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How did the Edge programme prepare you for a career in emergency?

EM: It increased my knowledge and taught me the approaches and principles I needed to embark on a career in ECC. It provided me with a great support system and gave me confidence in my abilities, highlighting how my existing skills could help me get started.

MS: It provided an ideal foundation for me. I came to Vets Now after maternity leave, so it acted as a really nice refresher for vetting in general, as well as preparing me for working in emergency.

LL: I’d worked for Vets Now before, but I’d been off for several years, so it was a great way to refresh my knowledge of ECC and get back into it.

SD: I was already working nights in a private hospital, but I felt I needed more training, so it was great to learn from experts in ECC.

Would you recommend the Edge programmes to others?

EM: Yes, absolutely. It provided me with a wealth of knowledge and information.

MS: I felt like it prepared me well for the work I’d be doing, so I’d definitely recommend it.

What’s the most important thing you learned during the programme?

EM: The most important thing for me was learning how to approach a case, which is very different from the approach I was taking in general practice. I was given so many ‘golden nuggets’ of information that I wouldn’t have learned elsewhere.

MS: I’d echo that. I learned that ECC requires a different way of thinking about things.

LL: I found the surgeries really interesting. It was good to get some experience in that area as I hadn’t done it for a number of years.

SD: I really liked the structure of the training we received. The lectures taught us best practice while the clinic visits showed us how to apply it in real-life situations.

What do you enjoy most about working in emergency and critical care?

EM: Being able to make a life-changing difference in one shift is really rewarding. I can do what I was trained to do as a vet more than I could in day practice. I feel like I can do a proper job now, and I get more satisfaction because of that.

MS: I enjoy the variety of cases that we see in ECC. No two shifts are the same and you never really know what you’re going to get.

LL: I like working nights as I’m free to do what I want during the day and I can plan my time better.

SD: Working with a small team is really nice. There’s a real sense of satisfaction when we make it to the end of a busy shift and see what we’ve achieved together.

Image of our Refresh Your Edge graduates at our recent reunion
Sophie Day, Louise Littler, Madeleine Smith and Emma Middleton attended our Edge programme reunion recently

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What’s been the highlight of working in ECC so far?

EM: Overall, I’m happy that I’m able to do what I’ve been trained to do and we’ve got the facilities and systems in place to do the best job we can.

LL: I like that we have a lot more time with the owners and the animals. I find it’s a much nicer process than in day practice where there’s usually only around ten minutes to do everything. I feel that we can provide a better service with fewer time constraints.

SD: The successful cases are always really nice. Knowing that I’m the reason an animal has survived is one of the best feelings. There have been quite a few of those moments, which is great.

How has Vets Now supported you to make the most of your potential?

EM: The training I’ve received has been excellent. I’ve also been trusted to go and do the job and I haven’t had my hand held too much, which is really important to me.

MS: The Edge programme was brilliant and reflects the learning culture of the company in general. The learning resources available are far superior to anywhere else I’ve ever worked.

LL: I was encouraged to take on a more senior role, which I may not have done without their support.

SD: I was encouraged to do my ECC certificate not long after finishing the Edge programme, and I also moved into a senior vet role, which I never would have dreamed of doing without their support. I’ve also recently become involved in mentoring. There are so many opportunities for development and it’s nice to do something a little bit different outside of doing clinical shifts.

What makes Vets Now a unique employer?

EM: Having worked in a lot of independent vet practices, I think Vets Now are very forward-thinking in the vet professional in general. The work is flexible which allows me to work around my young children, and there’s a real focus on the health and well-being of staff. They really seem to want to improve and make life better for their employees, which you don’t generally see in the vet profession.

MS: I feel like our voices are heard at Vets Now. There aren’t many places of work where the CEO would come down and have a chat with you about what you would like to see happen in the next year. That’s a really positive thing.

LL: I think what we do within the market is quite unique. A lot of other places are doing out of hours but they also do days or cover referral places. As a dedicated out of hours service, we really strive to offer the highest level of service in that area.

SD: I’d agree with that, they really strive for clinical excellence. We’re constantly being trained to make sure we’re at the forefront of veterinary medicine and providing the best care that we possibly can. Although it’s a big company, it feels like a family. I feel like our CEO Mark and the management team know the people in the clinics, which makes us feel appreciated. I’m proud to be a part of Vets Now for that reason.

Image of vets working at Vets Now emergency hospital in Glasgow
The vets say that the Edge programme provided the ideal foundation for a career in ECC

"Knowing that I’m the reason an animal has survived is one of the best feelings. There have been quite a few of those moments."

Sophie Day Principal Vet and Refresh Your Edge graduate

If you could give one piece of advice to veterinary undergraduates today, what would it be?

EM: Don’t be too hard on yourself. I was really hard on myself when I was a new graduate and I worked myself into the ground, but it’s really important to take time out and have a life outside of work.

MS: It’s OK to ask for help. Use the people around you when you need them.

LL: Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t overthink everything. Even experienced vets are always learning. You can’t come out of university expecting to know everything. It’ll come with time, just be logical and know when to ask for help.

SD: Learn to set boundaries. Love your job but don’t let it become all-consuming. Learn how to go home and relax.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?

EM: When I started working for Vets Now, I had a ‘lightbulb moment’ where I realised that it’s OK not to have all the answers. I realised that my job is to identify anything that’s life-threatening at that moment and keep the animal alive. I wish I’d known that earlier in my career as it took a massive amount of pressure off.

MS: I agree, I don’t think I realised that until I started working here. I’d told myself that I needed to fix everything straight away, but now I know that’s not true. It takes the pressure off a little bit as in most of these situations we’re looking for anything that’s imminently life-threatening, and those things are actually few and far between.

Would you consider returning to first-opinion practice? If not, why not?

EM: No, I wouldn’t go back. I just find ECC more interesting and stimulating. The biggest thing for me is that we have fewer clients to see in emergency. One of my biggest bugbears in first-opinion was running late and not having enough time to work things up properly. We don’t have to worry about any of that here and we can actually see people based on priority.

MS: I’m currently doing some maternity cover for a day practice and I’d consider returning to first-opinion practice in the future, but I do enjoy the emergency side more than the routine procedures.

LL: I could do ECC during the day, but I couldn’t go back to general practice. Although there’s still a lot to learn working in day practice, I just found it manically busy, physically exhausting and boring all at the same time.

SD: I’d stop being a vet before I’d returned to first-opinion practice. It’s about case satisfaction for me. I think I enjoyed around 1% of the cases that I saw in day practice and I enjoy every case that comes through the door at Vets Now.

What are your ambitions?

EM: I’m happy where I am at the moment. I’ve considered doing further training or an ECC certificate but my children are still very young and I’ve got a lot going on, so I’m taking small steps for now. My aim is to continue learning and becoming more confident and competent in my current role.

MS: I’d quite like to a do certificate. I’ve been doing it part time for a couple of years but maybe it’s time to take that next step.

LL: Between working, running the family business and my charity, I think I’ve got enough going on right now.

SD: I really enjoy learning so I’m currently doing my ECC certificate. My PV role has also encouraged me to explore the management side a little bit more, and mentorship is another direction I could take. It’s quite open at the moment, which is really exciting.

Vets Now handles the largest emergency caseload in Europe and we’re dedicated to delivering the highest service to pets and their owners in their time of need.

If you’re a vet or vet nurse looking for a new challenge in ECC with exciting development and progression opportunities, our Edge programmes could be the solution.

Whether you’re a new starter or an experienced vet professional, there’s an Edge programme for you.

Find out more about our Edge programmes here.